paragliding vs parasailing

Paragliding vs. Parasailing: What Is the Difference & Which One Is Best for You?

“Paragliding is better
No, parasailing all day!
Are you kidding me?
I don’t know what to tell you, pal”

The above conversation is what you can expect from two friends or even two strangers on the internet arguing about which is better between paragliding and parasailing. And the argument can get very intense at times. But which one is actually the better of the two?

At first glance, both paragliding and parasailing may seem similar and even confusing to people not familiar with them. But there are key differences between the two of them. I’ll be explaining what the two sports are and highlighting the differences between them. Then, you can decide which one appeals to you the most. So here we go.

Paragliding

What Is Paragliding?

Paragliding is an extreme and fun sport where a pilot runs or achieves lift by using a paraglider. The pilot sits in a harness that’s suspended under a curved wing.

Usually, the paraglider isn’t motor-powered and relies on the air and thermal differences to achieve life and cover long distances. But in some cases, a paraglider may receive some assistance from a motor – paramotor.

The curved shape of the wing is skillfully exploited by pilots to gain height, often reaching altitudes of a few thousand meters. The pilot is also able to glide over long distances and the glider is steered by pulling handles put beside each shoulder.

What Is Parasailing?

Parasailing is similar to paragliding, except the person is towed behind a vehicle, usually a boat. The equipment used for parasailing, a parasail, is different from that of paragliding. Parasailing can be done over water, aquatic parasailing, which involves a motorboat. It could also be done over land, terrestrial parasailing, with the pilot towed by a jeep.

Since a vehicle tows a pilot in parasailing, the vehicle will have to slow down to avoid the pilot breaking the connection between him and the vehicle to slow down.

Paragliding vs. Parasailing – The Key Differences

The main differences between paragliding and parasailing are the equipment used, safe conditions required, basic principles, and costs. All these will be discussed below.

Equipment Used – Paraglider vs. Parasail

The paraglider used in paragliding is a canopy/ellipse-shaped wing made from a light and tough material such as rip-stop nylon. The pilot is suspended from the wing by sturdy kevlar lines called rises, and a harness on which the pilot sits in.

By sitting on the harness, the pilot is comfortable and controls the glider through brake cords that provide speed and directional control. Paragliding pilots use a variometer which allows them to find the right air hub to continue flying high or a sinking jet stream to return to the ground.

The equipment used for parasailing is more of a parachute. A harness is also used but the pilot is towed by a vehicle. If a boat is used, the engine should have a minimum power of 90 HP. Parasailing companies usually provide the body harness, a towline, and the parachute. Also, they provide a ground crew, a skilled observer, and an experienced boat driver.

Safe Weather Conditions

Paragliding requires the right weather conditions and launch site. Usually, a cliff, dune, or hill is used. Paragliders should check wind speed before takeoffs and never takeoff when wind speed exceeds 15 miles per hour (mph) unless highly experienced and trained.

Regardless of the level of speed and experience, no paragliding pilot should fly in wind speed that exceeds 25 mph. Wet conditions, such as rain or snow, are also not ideal for paragliding because they may interfere with the control of the glider.

Parasailing can be done in faster wind conditions compared to paragliding although wind speed should not exceed 50 mph. Parasailing participants are also advised to wear life jackets if they are towed by a boat to avoid drowning. Helmets are also recommended to prevent head injuries.

Basic Principles

Three key processes are involved in paragliding naming, knowing how to launch, maneuver, and land a paraglider. There are two launching techniques – forward and backward launching. On the other hand, landing is usually straightforward. Sign up for a paragliding class to learn the basics of the sport.

Parasailing is simpler as the participant is attached to the parasail that is then towed by a vehicle. As the vehicle gains speed, the parasail catches air and achieves speed. The altitude the parasail can achieve depends on the speed of the boat.

Cost

Introductory paragliding lessons can set you back by around $500. If you want to take a tandem lesson, you’ll need to spend a little more – $150. Certification courses are also available and cost about $1500 on average. And a paraglider can cost anywhere between $4000 and $5000.

You don’t have to buy parasailing equipment as the company will provide all you need. You pay per hour and a one-hour flight can cost around $55 in the US.

Skills Required in Paragliding and Parasailing

The pilot has total control in paragliding, and this is why it’s important to take paragliding lessons to learn proper takeoff techniques, how to control the paraglider, and land safely. Since weather conditions may vary, paragliding pilots also need to learn how to fly in different weather conditions.

Tandem paragliding is also available and only one person is in control of the glider. Usually, the most experienced pilot takes control and the passenger only has to participate during takeoff and landing.

Parasailing doesn’t involve any skill. The participant is more of a passenger as they achieve lift and height through the speed of the vehicle they are attached to. Your boat operator will give you a safety briefing before takeoff.

The ease of parasailing makes the sport enticing to people on holidays looking for quick thrills. They sit like a king on a throne as they are propelled by a vehicle. Easy peasy.

Where Can Paragliding and Parasailing Be Performed?

There are a variety of locations where paragliding can be performed but coastal areas or areas with hills or mountains are preferred. The reason for this is the ease to achieve lift and leverage thermals in these areas.

Tandem paragliding is available at some popular holiday destinations such as Bali for tourists. Tourists get to experience the thrill of paragliding without having to worry about controlling the glider as they are paired with an experienced pilot. Many paragliding clubs with access to suitable launch sites exist in almost all suitable paragliding locations.

Parasailing is usually carried out with a boat. The reason for this is that aquatic parasailing provides some level of safety should there be an issue. Participants are mandated to wear life jackets to prevent drowning should they find themselves in the water for any reason. The preferred choice of aquatic parasailing means the activity is restricted to coastal beaches attracting young and adventurous crowds.

Some people carry out parasailing on land and a powerful vehicle, preferably a four-wheel drive is used to tow the participant. Terrestrial paragliding is more dangerous than aquatic paragliding since landing is on hard ground. The driver of the vehicle must be focused and experienced. And only adrenaline junkies with extensive aquatic parasailing experience should participate in terrestrial parasailing.

Which One Is More Dangerous?

Paragliding is more dangerous than parasailing because the pilot achieves higher altitudes. Parasailing typically doesn’t exceed 100 or 200 m above the ground as tow speed and cable length are limited. The launching and landing of paragliding are also more complex compared to parasailing. And paragliding has a much narrower range of conditions than parasailing.

Some people carry out parasailing on land and a powerful vehicle, preferably a four-wheel drive is used to tow the participant. Terrestrial paragliding is more dangerous than aquatic paragliding since landing is on hard ground. The driver of the vehicle must be focused and experienced. And only adrenaline junkies with extensive aquatic parasailing experience should participate in terrestrial parasailing.

Which One Is Better?

Both paragliding and parasailing can provide fun and memorable experiences. I personally found paragliding more thrilling than parasailing but I definitely enjoyed both. While the one you choose will be a matter of personal preference, these are a couple of things to consider.

If you want to achieve greater height, enjoy aerial views, or enjoy the thrill of flying in a relaxing manner, you should consider paragliding. Paragliding is also a hobby and will require investment in training and gear. So if you are looking to take up a hobby, paragliding makes more sense for you.

If you don’t have time to learn paragliding, don’t intend to fly occasionally, don’t have the budget paragliding requires, or want a safer method of flying, then parasailing is the one for you. You can get a healthy dose of thrill and adventure when you go parasailing without the commitment paragliding requires.

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